Somehow or the other I came across a terrific post by Scott Burkett about the state of venture investing in Georgia. Scott laments over the lack of Web 2.0 companies in Georgia and you can read about the reasons why in his post. I added him to my feed and started thinking about some of the things that he said.
It also just happens that I just returned from the Talk to An Angel panel hosted by the MIT Enterprise Forum of Atlanta. Nelson Chu did a great job running the group over the past year. But last night was really was a stellar show.
A few weeks ago Paul Graham had this excellent post on how to be the next Silicon Valley. I don’t want Atlanta to become the next Silicon Valley. Just a little and more diverse from a technology perspective would do me fine. Take the time to read Paul’s long post. It is well worth it.
As a budding entrepreneur with a passion for consumer-oriented companies I have a few insights of my own on what we need to do to take Atlanta to the next level.
Mix The Types
Paul talks about how only two kinds of people are needed to create a tech hub. Rich people and geeks.
Atlanta has both. There are enough millionaires in Atlanta to fill Turner Field. And with Georgia Tech being a top four ranked engineering school lord knows we have our share of geeks. We just need to figure out how to get the rich folks and the geeks together so that more technologies have an opportunity to be commercialized and that technologies that can turned into businesses are explored.
Keep The Winners In
Someone made the observation last night that when we have winners in Atlanta they tend to pack up and go to the beach and not help those that follow. This is true to an extent. Take MindSpring for example. Not a single start up of note has been spawned from the company (something I intend to change). There are lots of reasons for that that I will not get into. But one of them may be that Charles Brewer and Mike McQuary, while they both have great mentors to me since our time there, have gone on to new passions in real estate and music and are not generally part of the Atlanta technology start up community.
We need the winners and their personna to stay in the game at some level.
Create The Ideas
Once you get the rich people and the geeks together something really interesting will start to happen. They will start to talk about things that are interesting to them. Very specifically if the geeks are talking about that is interesting from a technology perspective, the rich people will generally be able to tell them how to turn it into a business. An innovative business. Once you do that you are off to the races.
Expand The Clusters
Atlanta has three technology start up clusters which is in and of itself, a bit of a cluster. The clusters are security, logistics, and payment processing. If you have a great idea outside these areas, you may as well pack up and leave town. Nobody is going to invest in it.
Here is a good recent example. I was talking with Stephen Fleming the other day. Stephen a great guy doing a great job. Here is a brief summary of our conversation.
Lance: “I am looking to get connected with some of the geeks over in the College of Computing that are working on consumer oriented Internet technologies.”
Stephen: “We don’t do that.”
With the building they are putting in over there has got to be someone. Maybe two. If the richest thirty something in the States started a consumer tech company you would think there might be a few at Tech that want to do the same thing.
Change The Game
The power of any start up company utlimately rests with the founders. A start up with the best people and the best execution will beat those that are better funded. Its not all about money. It is playing the game smart. Playing the game smart includes aligning with the forces that are committed to building great technologies in Georgia regardless of where they happen to be.
If you are starting a business it is yours. Find like minded people with the same principles as you. Run it your way.
And if you can’t, maybe it ain’t that great an idea or maybe you ain’t the person to run it.
As Stephen said last night. “It’s hard raising capital. The reason it is hard is that running a company is hard, and getting through the process of bringing in funds is just a test to see if you might have what it takes to do that.”
A Note on Web 2.0
My interest is on consumer oriented Internet companies. I spend a lot of time talking to like minded people. Beyond those that can be self funded for a long time like Convex and Kaneva, I am started to see more and more bubbling up every day.
Heck, I just heard of a new one today. Congrats Dennis!